I’m sorry I haven’t been posting this week and last – I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m supposed to be studying for my final exams (really final final exams since I’ll be starting work right after these exams) and at the same time, I’m in Sydney. Strange? Well, I’m supposed to be studying in Sydney, and visiting Jon at the same time, so it works out to be a holiday-and-study-and-visit trip? In any case, I haven’t had the urge to blog, although I’ve been baking like a mad woman these days – I love it when I have guinea pigs to try recipes on, so I’ve been baking cupcake recipes (complete with frosting since Aussies love sweet things) and asking Jon to bring them for his friends every day. The only bad thing is that his friends are too nice, and don’t really give me the criticism that I’m seeking – I want pure unadulterated criticism – i.e., how can the cupcakes be improved, but I usually get comments like “quite nice” or “they finished everything” instead. -__-” Not too helpful, but hey, I’ll take whatever I can get :]
Anyway, I don’t usually bake frosted cupcakes, because my family isn’t too fond of frosting, and any frosting I do is usually hidden in between the cake layers such that it is a very thin layer – hence my frosting techniques definitely need more work! Just look at the photographs – my attempts at proper swirls and roses kinda failed. BUT I am in part blaming it on the tools – I have been hunting for the Wilton 1M tip for ages, but the staff at the Phoon Huat outlet I visit tells me that this tip has been out of stock even at Wilton itself, so no stock has been coming in. I took the staff’s recommendation with a 823 tip, but the tip just isn’t big enough to give the classic ‘rose’ swirl that I’m looking for – sigh. Guess I’ll just have to wait for the tip to come back in stock!
|Nicest-frosted cupcake of the lot – it almost looks like the rose I was trying to achieve?|
In any case, I bought a huge bag of Aussie carrots for A$1.10, which was on offer at Coles and decided that I should make carrot cupcakes with them. I usually make a carrot sheet cake, but here in Sydney, I don’t exactly have a sheet pan and I only have a 6-hole muffin pan, so cupcakes it was! So I decided to check out a new carrot cake recipe – particularly Veronica’s (Quay Po) carrot cake recipe which has been raved by Sonia, among others. I actually have my own to-go-to carrot cake recipe, which I derived after many rounds of tasting and testing last year (also when I had a huge craving for cream cheese and carrot cake), so I was pleasantly surprised after I compared Veronica’s recipe and realized that mine and hers were pretty similar! I guess this shows that my testing was really quite successful? ;p The only difference was in the types of sugar used (I like a use a combination of white and brown), and I tend to use less vegetable oil and no nuts or raisins in the recipe since I prefer the nuts on the outside with the frosting.
As such, I decided to stick to my own recipe, but spicing things up a little by adding a little nutmeg which Veronica called for and substituting some of the fat with applesauce (thus making it low fat!) :] For those of you who might not have heard of this substitution before, applesauce is actually a very common substitute for vegetable oil in a recipe – as such, it is usually used in muffin recipes which tend to use vegetable oil. It sort of adds moisture to the recipe, mimicking to an extent what fat does in a recipe. You can substitute applesauce for vegetable oil on a one-for-one basis, i.e., if the recipe calls for one cup of oil, substitute it with one cup of applesauce. However, I would advise against such a substitution, because the cake or baked good will turn out a little gummy and not as flavorful (plus the apple taste will be quite obvious and strong). Instead, substitute half of the oil with applesauce, and you can accordingly reduce the sugar by about 5-10% since the applesauce is naturally sweet. Do note however that the taste of apples can be quite evident, so keep that in mind when doing substitutions! On top of applesauce, you can actually use other fruit purees, such as banana and pumpkin, both of which I have tried using in other recipes (but note that these have stronger ‘tastes’ than applesauce).
This is my own recipe after much testing, which was originally very loosely adapted from an allrecipes recipe.
Makes 6 large cupcakes
80g all-purpose flour
⅛ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp nutmeg
30g odorless oil (I used sunflower oil)
30g homemade unsweetened applesauce (see recipe below)
40g brown sugar
30g white granulated sugar
100g shredded (or grated) carrots
- Preheat the oven to 170°C.
- Sift the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg) together. Add in both brown and white sugars and mix well.
- In another bowl, combine the egg, oil and applesauce together, mixing well.
- Gradually pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring briefly until just combined. Then, stir in the shredded carrots. It is okay to have slight traces of flour in the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake tins and bake for about 18-20 minutes, until the tops are brown and a cake tester comes out clean with few crumbs sticking to it.
Cream cheese frosting
Adapted from Sonia
150g cream cheese, at room temperature
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
70g icing sugar, sifted
- Note: I didn’t have a mixer so I manually beat the butter and cream cheese.
- Using a wooden spoon, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and creamy.
- Add in the icing sugar in two portions, until all the icing sugar is incorporated. Test the frosting at this point in time to check the sweetness. Add more icing sugar if desired.
- Place the mixture into a piping bag and begin piping. If the mixture is too soft (especially if you beat by hand and have contributed too much body heat to the bowl), refrigerate the frosting (in the piping bag) for half an hour before piping onto the cooled cupcakes.
Homemade unsweetened applesauce recipe
There is not much of a recipe for the applesauce, but more of directions.
You will need
- A combination of apples (or you can just use a single variety)
- Some drinking water
- Spices, if desired.
- A large pot (with a lid) to cook the apples
- A wooden spoon
- A potato masher/blender
- Airtight container
- Take any combination of apples you desire – I used one each of Fuji, Red Delicious and Sundown apples. Peel, core and chop the apples.
- Place the diced apples in a pot and fill the pot with about an inch of water. Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat to high to boil the apples. After about 5 minutes, remove the lid and turn down the heat to medium, letting the mixture simmer and allowing the water to evaporate.
- Stir the mixture occasionally. Depending on the type of apples, the apples will start to disintegrate. The apples have a high water content, so your mixture will appear more liquid. My mixture took about 15-20 minutes to soften. You can then mash up the apples using a potato masher or with a handheld blender. You can also season the applesauce with cinnamon (or other spices) but I chose to leave it as it is since I wanted to use it in my baking.
- Let the mixture cool before storing in an airtight container in the fridge until ready for use. The applesauce will keep well in the fridge for about a week or two. Do freeze it if you don’t plan to use it anytime soon.
|Swirling from the outside-in (bottom) and inside-out (top cupcake) does give you very different results.|
- Taste: The taste of applesauce is evident, but not overpowering. In fact, some of whom tasted the cupcakes didn’t realize that there was applesauce in it. I would definitely up the spices again the next time, seeing that I prefer a very spicy carrot cake but this amount of spices worked fine as well. The cream cheese frosting was also sufficiently sweet, although some commented that they prefer it slightly sweeter (since my cake was already not too sweet).
- Texture: I think I shredded my carrots a little too finely this time, because I didn’t get the usual ‘bite’ from the carrots this time. Otherwise, the cupcakes were moist (less moist than usual since I used applesauce) but sufficiently moist, especially after consuming them with frosting.
- Serving size: Makes 6 cupcakes nicely, however I filled my cupcake liners to about half-full, and managed to get an extra one cupcake. This is why the cupcakes appear slightly shorter than normal. Do fill the cupcake liners to three-quarters if you want a normal-height cupcake.
- Modifications: I used a heaping ½ tsp of baking soda because applesauce is acidic and requires a tad more baking soda. If using just plain oil, use a normal level ½ tsp. I doubled the cinnamon as well to 1tsp, because I like a ‘spicier’ carrot cake, and also because since there is less oil in the recipe (fat acts as a flavor carrier in cake recipes), I amended that by using more cinnamon to ensure the cake remained equally tasty. I’ll also try using a tad more carrots the next time, grated a little coarser for more ‘bite’.
- Storage: Unfrosted, the cupcakes store well at room temperature for a few days. However, I would advise storing them in an airtight container in the fridge so that they can last longer. In any case, this recipe only produces 6 cupcakes, so it really isn’t that hard to finish them all :]
- Would I make this again?: Definitely! It is my to-go-to carrot cupcake recipe for a good reason ;p
And as you can see, I’ve been using the same three cupcakes in all the photos because the other two were even more horribly frosted than this and the rest were in my tummy by the time I remembered to take photographs heh. Anyway, I’ll be submitting this to Min for Aspiring Bakers #13: Enjoy Cupcakes! (November 2011). Hopefully I have time to upload the photographs of the other cupcakes I’ve tried making. I’ve done a strawberry cupcake comparison (between Martha’s strawberry cupcakes, Deb’s pink lady cake and Stef’s foolproof strawberry cupcake recipes) whose results I’m dying to share, but as usual, forgot to take photos and the only few photos are still on the camera!
|Final gratuitous photo of the cupcake :]|